Great content creates a ritual that keeps people coming back
For anyone with a love of information, literature or knowledge, the idea of books being destroyed is distressing, not just on a surface level of loss, but more deeply due to the unpleasant politically motivated connotations ‘book burning’ has had in the past. Certainly, the last place one would expect the destruction of books to be taking place is in a university, yet this is exactly what has been happening in Sydney.
It has been reported that in recent years, the University of New South Wales library has been disposing of 50,000 volumes a year in order to make more space for a café-style culture in the learning hub; actions that have been met with outrage by academics.
‘There’s something profoundly wrong, and symbolically wrong, about a university destroying books,’ says David Miller, a professor in the School of History and Philosophy at UNSW. ‘Universities are in the business of passing on knowledge and books – no matter how the use of books is shrinking – still remain a very important symbol of knowledge.’
On a practical level, the clearing of volumes that have been translated to a digital format makes sense. Yet the affront many feel at the idea of books being destroyed speaks to the sentimentalism surrounding our consumption of information.
When the great communicator and theorist Marshall McLuhan said ‘the medium is the message’, he spoke to the core of current debate around hard-copy books and their digital counterparts. Why else would the new generation of digital readers such as the Kobo™ and Kindle™ feature book-like design elements such as a ‘page-turning’ function that mirrors the flicking action of someone reading a standard paperback?
We all have our preferences when it comes to consuming content. The writer of this blog reads two or three newspapers online daily, going the entire work week without purchasing a paper copy. This is how she consumes her information. On a Sunday, however, she ritualises the experience, walking to the same newsagency, collecting a coffee on her way home and savouring the woody scent as she settles in for an hour of devouring the weekend news.
It is not just the information that works its way into our hearts and minds. It is the seeking out of information, the way in which we approach it, that becomes ingrained in our culture.
In terms of creating new content through new channels, it is wise to keep McLuhan’s advice in mind – with the added caveat that if the content itself is poor, it’s not going to engage people (and get the message across) no matter how good the medium. Great content creates a connection that encompasses not only the information presented, but the experience of the consumer in engaging with that content.
Whether it is the smell of an old book as it falls open on a favourite passage, the daily treat of a tea and biscuit as an employee pauses their workday to read their favourite blog, or even the smooth, reassuring weight of an iPhone as a commuter scrolls through the latest Tweets, content is always tied up in ritual.
Great content acknowledges this, and delivers itself in a way that enhances this ritual.
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Image sourced from: Fast Company